When it launched on July 1, 1987 with an audio clip from the Jets’ Super Bowl III win, WFAN was the country’s only 24-hour local sports-radio station. Many, many others followed. The inaugural caller, a soft-spoken boy, simply asked host Jim Lampley for his opinion of the Mets’ bull pen. It was the emphatically opinionated second caller who really set the tone for a sports-talk universe. Here, that call.
1. WFAN’s predecessor, country station WHN, had signed off just before 3 p.m. with Ray Price’s “For the Good Times.” WHN and WFAN were separated only by a pane of glass in Queens’ Kaufman Astoria studios. Host Howie Rose (now the Mets’ radio play-by-play man) was moving from one station to the other: “Everybody at WHN was in this emotional group hug; I was practically at the epicenter. Very casually, I slunk away and found my way to my knees and crawled into the WFAN studio to take part in all the high-fiving.”
2. Lampley, now an HBO boxing commentator, began his show soon after a news update that included an item about the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.
3. Lampley: “If you’re a definable personality, there’s somebody out there that wants to listen to you regardless of how inane or even stupid you might be. In the way a monkey could make the first flight in the space program, a monkey could have made the first flight in talk radio.”
4. Eight of the first ten calls were about baseball. The two others concerned the possibility of college-football playoffs and Mike Tyson.
5. Rose: “Darryl Strawberry was the most talked-about figure the first two or three years of WFAN’s existence. As hot as the Yankees are now is as hot as the Mets were, if not even more so, back then.”
6. Says NFL and NCAA basketball broadcaster Greg Gumbel, another host at WFAN’s launch: “Much to my chagrin, we took calls. One guy called me up and says, ‘Hey, how ’bout the Yankees trade Don Mattingly to the Mets for Darryl Strawberry?’ What are you supposed to do with that?”
This story appeared in the June, 11, 2012 issue of New York Magazine.